New CA pact for Brown urged

Committee pushes 3-year contract for president of the organization

January 19, 2007|By Tyrone Richardson | Tyrone Richardson,sun reporter

A Columbia Association committee has recommended rewarding organization President Maggie J. Brown with a three-year contract, adding to a contentious debate that has divided the board of directors.

The association's operations committee, which has held several meetings to prepare a contract offer for Brown, voted 3-1 this week to recommend that the board approve negotiations for a three-year term, as she requested. The board will meet Thursday to discuss and vote on the length of Brown's contract offer.

Brown, 67, who is paid $183,000 annually, is in the last year of a three-year contact that expires April 30.

"You have to talk about the term, then you can talk about what is going to be in the contract," said Pearl Atkinson-Stewart, a member of the operations committee. "Until we talk about how the term should go, we should not move forward at this point."

In November, five of the 10-member board placed their names on an e-mail sent to Chairman Tom O'Connor stating that Brown should not receive an extension longer than a year because they felt "a different style of management and a different direction" is needed.

The one-year contract would give time to find a replacement, the five members said.

Board members opposing the three-year contract are Gail Broida of Town Center, Cynthia Coyle of Harper's Choice, Philip W. Kirsch of Wilde Lake, Phil Marcus of Kings Contrivance and Barbara L. Russell of Oakland Mills.

Brown has declined to say if she would accept a contract for less than three years.

Most discussions about Brown's contract have been behind closed doors. Miles Coffman, board member representing Hickory Ridge, will ask the board at next week's session to release minutes from those private meetings.

"I want the public to see the discussions we had. ... I want them to see what the board is facing on this," Coffman said.

Atkinson-Stewart said the board could end Thursday's meeting stalemated on the length of Brown's contract, echoing similar comments from other members of the board who have not changed their positions

"I don't see the purpose [of discussing the length of the contract] because it's clear that five of us have said, `No, we are not going to agree on a three-year contract,'" Marcus said. "It's going to come up, and there may literally be screaming and shouting. And there will be a no vote, and this is a negative accomplishment of setting board member against board member on an emotional level."

Marcus, and other board members opposing a three-year contract, said they would rather talk about other particulars of the contract.

"We need to have discussions on other aspects of the contract because there would be agreement of more than five people on some other aspects of the contract," Russell said. "To have a productive conversation, we should start there."

Other members disagree.

"We can't even get into other parts of the contract negotiation until we know what length to agree on," Coffman said.

The length of Brown's contract has stirred emotions in the community and on the board, especially among those who favor a one-year contract.

"I expect a negative campaign of phone calls and more e-mails denouncing, in personal terms, the five of us who said we want a one-year contract, which is very un-Columbian and is uncivil and does not advance the debate," Marcus said.

Brown, the first African American to lead the association, took office in 2001 after a nationwide search to replace Deborah O. McCarty, who resigned.

During the search, Chick Rhodehamel, the association's vice president for open-space management, was acting president.

Some board members said that if Brown's contract is not resolved by April, an acting president could be named. O'Connor said he does not want that.

"That is a scenario, and I don't expect it to happen," O'Connor said.

The Columbia Association board is scheduled to meet at its headquarters, 10221 Wincopin Circle, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. The meeting is open to the public.

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